Exploring our parks: Grace Cole Nature Park

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Photo courtesy LFP
by Mary Jo Heller

A word about the parks of Lake Forest Park and Shoreline: this is not an attempt at history, really. That you can find that on either city’s website. It is just a look at what is in a park, and why you would want to go. Parks are a major part of being a city and should be used. First you have to know they’re there.

Grace Cole Nature Park

Photo by Mary Jo Heller
This is not really an easy park to find. 

If you travel down 178th though, there is a small sign that says “Grace Cole Park” at 30th. There is also a sign by the entrance of Grace Cole Park that explains its origins and history from a wetland in 1961 to being partially filled, through the creation of two ponds, one artificially dug, to its purchase in 2002 by the city of Lake Forest Park. 

The sign said that at one time the salmon here at the beginning of Brookside Creek “were so thick, you could walk across the creek” on them. There is a great effort underway to help restore this as a spawning ground, involving the students at Brookside School. 

However, parking is really further down the street. There is room for perhaps 6 cars to park here. While I was looking at the park, a dad and two kids bicycled past, which made me notice the short path in front of the park that connects the two parts. There was also a single guy walking the loop. 

But we were pretty much alone in this quiet habitat. As you walk down the path from the parking lot, you notice slender trees that lean toward each other like an archway. It’s really too early in the spring for much foliage, but already I could see that I would want to return in the summer. The path is a loop- one side pretty steep, 20 % grade, perhaps 200 ft. vertical, the other less so. 

The entire loop is only about 1/3 mile, but it looks as though more is planned. There were signs of lots of sliding with all our spring rains, but restoration was already going on. We saw lots of skunk cabbage along the creeks, with birds flitting around.

The second path starts at the Grace Cole sign and continues along a boardwalk. This follows the wetlands, and there is a sign at the end about the sanctuary. We watched some ducks diving around the algae and hoped that it wouldn’t rain on us. The ducks didn’t seem to care. 

Photo by Mary Jo Heller
Although I am not in any way knowledgeable about plants, I did notice some salmonberries beginning to form- unfortunately off the boardwalk path. 

There was a spider-like stringed contraption on one of the ponds that the city said was netting to protect the delicate plants in the pond from wildlife. 

It’s an intriguing park, one that won’t take you any time to explore. It’s more a park to find a quiet place to reflect or just listen. The sign at the beginning of the park said there are really 14 acres here, most of it being inaccessible to walkers. 

And bring a chair if you intend to sit and contemplate nature- there is a single bench on the upper part of the trail from the parking lot. This is an urban park- there are homes all around it. 

We need places like this, not just for us, but to remind us that we share our planet.

More info on the park, as well as its history can be found on the Lake Forest Park City website.
There is also a site through the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation.


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